Common Questions

Get the Facts on T1D Frequently Asked Questions

Following are answers to our most commonly asked questions about type 1 diabetes. If you don’t see your question here, feel free to contact us

What is type 1 diabetes (T1D)?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease of the immune system, the body’s system for fighting infection. In people with T1D, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy insulin-producing cells, called beta cells, and destroys them. This results in the pancreas making little or no insulin, causing high blood sugar levels.

What is an autoimmune disease?

An autoimmune disease is a disorder of the body's immune system. The immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys body tissue it believes is foreign. Other examples of autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

What is an autoantibody?

Created by the body’s immune system, an autoantibody is a protein that attacks one or more healthy proteins. TrialNet screening looks for specific diabetes-related autoantibodies because they signal an increased risk for T1D.

What are the symptoms of T1D?

T1D symptoms can include:
  • Extreme weakness and/or tiredness
  • Extreme thirst—dehydration
  • Increased urination
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritability or quick mood changes
T1D symptoms are caused by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood and may be mistaken for severe flu or another illness. T1D develops over time. But, once it reaches stage 3  symptoms may come on quickly and be life-threatening. If you or someone you know has symptoms of T1D, be sure to get medical attention right away.

What causes T1D?

The exact cause of T1D is unknown. The body's immune system— which normally fights harmful bacteria and viruses— mistakenly destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Genetics play a role in this process. Certain environmental factors, such as viruses, may trigger the disease. Research is underway to find what causes T1D and how to stop it.

What are the risk factors for T1D?

There are several risk factors that make the development of T1D more likely:
  • Family history: If you have a relative with T1D, your risk is 15 times greater than the general population.
  • Genetics: If you have certain genes, you are at increased risk.
  • Autoantibodies: Diabetes-related autoantibodies signal an increased risk of T1D. TrialNet screening can detect these autoantibodies years before symptoms appear.
  • Geography: T1D is more common as you travel away from the Earth’s equator. People living in Finland and Sardinia have the highest incidence of type 1 diabetes in the world — about two to three times higher than those who live in the United States.
  • Race/Ethnicity: Caucasians (white/ or of European origin) are at higher risk than people from other ethnic groups.
  • Age: Although type 1 diabetes can appear at any age, it is most commonly diagnosed in children.

Isn’t T1D a childhood disease?

T1D used to be known as juvenile diabetes, but it’s not anymore. Although it’s usually diagnosed in children and young adults, it can occur at any age.

How is T1D treated?

T1D is treated with a combination of insulin, healthy diet, and exercise. It’s important for you and your healthcare provider to work together to find the best treatment plan for you.

Can T1D be reversed?

At this time, there is no way to reverse T1D. TrialNet is conducting clinical trials to find ways to slow down or stop disease progression.

Can T1D be cured?

Currently, there is no cure for T1D, but researchers are actively searching for one.

Once diagnosed with T1D, do I need to take insulin for the rest of my life?

Yes. Since people with T1D are not making enough insulin, taking insulin helps ensure they have enough.

Will exercise help to control T1D?

Exercise, in combination with healthy eating and insulin, contributes to successful T1D management. Check with your healthcare provider for exercise guidelines.

I have T1D and feel fine. Do I still need to check my blood sugar and take insulin?

When you have T1D, it’s important to check your blood sugar regularly and take insulin as needed. Just because you feel fine doesn’t mean your blood sugar levels are where they should be. Continued out of range blood sugar levels can lead to serious problems, including damage to your eyes, kidneys, and brain. It’s important to work with your diabetes care team to find the best treatment plan for you.

If I have T1D, will my child(ren)?

Not necessarily. Anyone with a relative with T1D has a 15 times greater risk than the general population. TrialNet offers screening that can detect diabetes-related autoantibodies years before symptoms appear. Detecting the disease in its earliest stage gives you the opportunity to change its course. There are clinical trials testing ways to slow or stop disease progression.

What is the risk for a twin after his/her twin is diagnosed?

Identical twins share the same set of genes, making it much more likely that they will both develop T1D if one of them is diagnosed. Although genes are very important in determining risk, they aren’t the whole story. Environmental factors, such as viruses, are thought to trigger diabetes in genetically at-risk persons.

Does risk for T1D vary by ethnicity?

Yes. Caucasians (white or of European origin) are at higher risk than people from other ethnic groups.

What resources do I have to help learn more about T1D?

Click on this link for some T1D resources to get you started.